Volleyball: Hard work pays off for Casa's Harris

By MICHAELCOIT
THEPRESSDEMOCRAT

The broken foot costing Ashley Harris a year of high school volleyball motivated the Casa Grande standout to become stronger and better. Her reward: a University of Arizona scholarship.

Harris is enjoying quite a November. In addition to signing with Arizona, she made the American Volleyball Coaches Association Girls High School All-America First Team.

“It’s exciting,” Harris said. “College is going to be a wake-up call. But I have amazing coaches that are getting me ready.”

Such has been the work ethic for the once gangly prodigy who has developed into an all-around force on the court.

Now a coordinated 6-foot-7, Harris was born to spike a volleyball. But she put in extra practice and more weight-room sessions to twice make the All-Empire team. Harris digs, kills, handles serves and blocks with the best.

“Ashley dedicates herself to volleyball year-round. There is no offseason for her,” said Casa Grande coach Jill Forni. “Her hard work paid off during her senior year. She went from only playing the front row to getting to play all the way around.”

Harris never came out of a high school contest this season. Fatigue was not an issue as her play remained sharp.

Leading the Gauchos into the North Coast Section quarterfinals, Harris averaged six kills and more than two digs per set. She was second on the team in receiving serves.

Long before becoming a more polished player, Harris drew interest from college coaches. More than 100 letters fill a folder.
After a handful of campus visits and several scholarship offers, Harris liked Arizona best. She is comfortable with Arizona’s playing system. The school’s business marketing program also is attractive.

“It was just a really great fit, and the coaches are great,” Harris said.

Despite the attention and promise of a college scholarship, Harris never eased her push to improve.
That broken foot her freshman season led Harris to focus any frustration into extra practices for footwork and skills, complemented by strength and conditioning workouts.

“It was a driving factor to get better. I wanted to get back on the court stronger,” Harris said.

Playing for the Empire Volleyball Club provides training and experience. Harris competes with the region’s top players in practice and plays upwards of a 150 matches over a six-month season.

One measure of Harris’ improvement is the All-America honor, recognizing her among the nation’s elite prep players.

Many of the 100 players will, like Harris, join top college programs next season.

“My coaches definitely kept me humble,” Harris said. “You can always get better.”